Uncommon Sense

December 1, 2022

Democrats are Pro-Labor . . . Aren’t They?

Not for the last 40 years or so, no. I remember when Mr. Obama was elected. A piece of legislation dearly sought by unions had been stalled and when he was elected, well, it would be pushed through by the Dems, right? The legislation was to go back to the labor law when a union could essentially gather membership cards from a majority of a workplace’s workers and that would give the union standing to represent those workers in negotiations. Card campaigns were cards that stated that a worker wanted a union to represent them, just as a lawyer has a client sign a contract that states that they are representing them as a client. That was the law for many, many years. Mr. Obama ignored that legislation and it died on the vine.

Many other instances of labor being ignored have occurred, I am sure, but most recently President Biden showed the Dems true colors by forcing a labor settlement to avoid a railroad strike. The railroad workers were negotiating to get paid sick leave. Do you have paid sick leave? Can you imagine what your life would be without it? Railroad workers were told they could use paid vacation time if they needed to see a doctor or had to go to hospital. How would you feel if that were the case in your job?

President Biden, along with all of the other Dems, has stated clearly that the Dems, like the Repubs, are behind their rich donors and not you and not me.

As one wag put it, the Dems look union people straight in the eye and say “You’ll never get anything you want if I don’t win; but once I win, I can’t do the things you need, because then I wouldn’t be able to win again.” (Hamilton Nolan in The Guardian) Gosh, they couldn’t possibly offend the rich, now, could they?

* * *

Last year, adjusted operating margins for the five largest US railroads were 41 percent. Ten years ago, they were 29 percent. Two decades ago, they were 15 percent. Even compared with other transportation companies (which are doing extremely well)— trucking, parcel, air freight, maritime shipping, airlines – today’s railroad profits are humongous. (Robert Reich)

Railroad workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, railroad employees are approximately twice as likely to die on the job as the average American worker. The risk is shared by conductors, signalmen, track laborers and others, and even non-fatal injuries can be serious, leading to chronic pain and other debilitating issues. (Arvin J. Perlman)

November 10, 2022

If You Aren’t Yet Convinced that Our Enemy is the big Money Corporations and the Uber-rich . . .

Please read this:

Amazon and Apple have an illegal price-fixing conspiracy

September 11, 2022

Quiet Quitting Ain’t New

The business news and some of the mainstream news sources are all abuzz about “quiet quitting.” Quiet Quitting refers to doing your job and only what’s required of you at work–nothing more and nothing less. But this ain’t new folks. It has been around for millennia. Do you think slaves were gung ho and always doing more that they were asked to do?

More recently “working to rule” was a tactic of organized labor, requiring workers to only do what was in their job descriptions (which is where some of the juicy anti-labor stories have unfairly come from).

Currently, “quiet quitting” is simply adopting the attitude that one’s employer only deserves what they hired you to do. As a labor representative, I commented over and over that people misplaced their trust and loyalty. They are loyal to their employers because they want to be employed by someone who they could be loyal to, not because their employer had earned their trust and loyalty.

But, there are any number of job sites in which you will observe no such “quiet quitting” behavior. These are sites in which the employees are not only empowered, but given a piece of the action. They are consulted regarding work rule changes. Their suggestions for improvements in processes are taken seriously. And when the whole company benefits, they benefit, too.

These companies pass Robert Reich “We-They Test.” To test a company, ask any employee how they are treated. If they refer to their bosses as “they” or “them” you know a lot about the relationship (primarily a “us and them” or “we-they” relationship). If they refer to the company as “we” or “us,” you know that that company is employee focused and employees have bought in.

And, funny thing—companies that invest in, empower, and honor their employees perform better, are more profitable, etc. Funny, hah! Company executives would rather have inflated egos than more profits, imagine that!

May 3, 2022

Voters—Is This What You Want?

The consequences of voting Republican are becoming more and more obvious. It this is what you want, then keep voting Republican.

Voter Suppression
Republicans do not believe that “all men are created equal” not even close. By that, by the way, it does not mean that all mean are created with equal abilities, far from it. It means that all people want a decent life, want to have a family and protect themselves and their families from harm, etc. Basically, it means that at a ground level, we all want the same things. Beyond that, for example, only men seem to want to be “the baddest dude in town” and “the richest man in the world.” I have yet to see a woman espouse those desires. But regard the basics, we all want the same thing.
And, like I said Republicans do not believe that, at all. They think some are way better than others: they think White people are better than Black people, they think straight people are better than gay people, they think Christians are better than non-Christians, and they think that people should be treated differently because of those differences.
Do you think voter suppression would be “a thing” if the votes needing to be suppressed were White person votes and not Black and Brown person votes?

Diminishing Women’s Reproductive Rights
The Republicans staged a disingenuous process to pack the Supreme Court with shallow, doctrinaire, political thinkers, meaning the Court’s reputation will continue to sink until people will have lost any faith in its role in our government. (This undermines our democracy, because the courts were supposed to be one of the “checks and balances” on the other branches.)
There is a reason the Republicans have resisted the elimination of the filibuster in the Senate. When the Supreme Court has gone rogue, cutting its ties with prior courts and dumping precedents right and left, then legislation must be passed to make up for that. But a minority in the Senate controls whether anything gets passed and thus we will stagger forward into rule of the minority.

The Rich Getting Richer at the Expense of Everyone Else
The Republican Party used to known as the party of the wealthy, but they have actually franchised the whole party out to its rich donors. The only laws that get past are those favoring the rich. Consequently, the rich have more and more money with smaller and smaller tax bills and the rest of us end up paying for anything we collectively want to do. And the only things the GOP wants to fund are the courts/justice systems and the military. So, they keep giving the military more money than they ask for while our schools are starved for funds and our infrastructure crumbles.

No Separation of Church and State
The GOP wants to give Christians special privileges and many exemptions from our laws, becasue they are so special. If you are a Buddhist, or Muslim, or atheist, or just “spiritual, whatever the fuck that means, well get in line, behind the Christians flying first class.

The Suppression of Unions and Worker’s Rights
They have been grinding away for forty years or more and now we are seek real negative effects. If this continues, we gonna hafta tug our forelocks and address our corporate masters as “massa” and give them no lip or feel the lash.

So, if that is what you want, then continue to vote Republican. Polls of the public and voters in particular show that those things are not what they want. So, let’s take down the Republican Party. If they want our votes, they will have to change their evil ways. If they do not, there are plenty of defunct political parties in the history books they can join.

And, if we reject the Republican Party, that means we are stuck with the Democratic Party, and that is no prize. The Dems dumped their historical foundational groups: working people, minority groups, teachers, and labor unions in the late 70’s, early 80’s. They, like the GOP, only serve their rich donors now. Well, they will have an opportunity. If we take down the GOP, the Dems could wake up and reform from within, and go back to serving all of us . . . in proportion. If not, then it is time for a new party. Yes, I know some people will suggest we go back to the Republicans, claiming everybody deserves a second chance. Well, the GOP is on it’s seventeenth chance, and doesn’t deserve another. Same with the Dems. Reform now. Serve us all, proportionately (No, Repubs, not proportionate to our wealth), or enjoy the view from the dustbin of history.

February 26, 2022

WTF, UPS?

According to The Guardian “UPS reported record profits in 2021 as it increased shipping prices; its profits grew nearly tenfold in 2021 to $12.89bn from $1.34bn in 2020. Its stock price hit a record high in February 2022. UPS is projecting more growth in 2022, with the expectation to hit 2023 financial goals a year early. The company approved a $5bn stock buyback program in August 2021.”

So, how did UPS celebrate their good fortune? By rewarding their employees, maybe? No, they cut the wages of their part-time employees, the backbone of the company, from $3 to $6 per hour. Some of these cuts reversed wage increases made just last year.

Geez, I thought it was God who was supposed to work in mysterious ways. Apparently the new corporate playbook justifies all actions with “Because We Can.” That slogan is up on a plaque in their corporate offices next to “Greed is Good.”

February 23, 2022

Unfettered Capitalism Fells a Giant Company

Netflix is currently running a wonderful documentary titled: Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.

Because of a merger and an accompanying change in management, Boeing Company went from an engineering-led company to the darling of neoliberals everywhere: a company focused solely upon “shareholder value.” Running a company focused solely on shareholder value is a crap economics theory fomented by economists on the leash of greedy assholes.

In this case, a company with a sterling reputation, which was quite profitable, ended up losing its reputation, killing hundreds of people, plus paying a $2 billion dollar fine to the FAA. And that is not all. They lost employee loyalty, along with tens of thousands of employees along the way.

This should be a case study for business and finance schools in all colleges and universities of how not to run a company of this type.

January 11, 2022

Why Are We Working So Hard?

It seems indisputable that Americans work harder now than ever before. Questions abound such as “why do we allow this?” and “what is it about our culture that makes this a positive?” and yada, yada, yada.

I remember reading an article in Scientific American quite some time +ago along the lines of “labor saving devices don’t” . . . don’t save labor, that is. When household appliances came around, like the electric vacuum cleaner, we ended up vacuuming more than we ever swept the same floors with a broom. The authors believe they identified the culprit: our standards changed. In the case of the vacuum cleaner our standards of cleanliness changed when a new level became available without large amounts of labor to pull it off. In that case, we were the cause of the additional labor. In this case. . . ?

Economists looked at post-war America and claimed that productivity gains would result in workers dropping from a 40-hour workweek to as low as a 15-hour workweek, well before now.

Well, what happened?

Greed happened.

For that prediction to have come to be, productivity gains had to be large, and they were. Check. Then those gains need to have been credited to the workers and their hours reduced at the same pay. Uh, that didn’t happen. What happened is the increases in income from the increases in productivity were pocketed by executives and owners. Call it the “Trickle Up Effect.”

Why any reputable economist would think that workers would benefit by their hours being reduced at the same pay is quite beyond me. In the after-war period, worker’s wages went up in lock step with worker’s productivity, but that was because labor unions fought tooth and nail to get those pay increases. There were more strikes post-war than I could count. But the oligarchs saw what was happening and bribed our politicians and judges to disempower unions, and as the number of strikes fell, so too did the pay increases. Those pay increases actually fell to almost zero (when corrected for inflation). And since you are probably not as old as I am, you probably don’t remember that pay increase came in pairs. One part was called a “cost of living adjustment” which corrected salaries for lost purchasing power due to inflation, and the other part were actual pay increases, aka “raises,” often based on productivity increases or flat out company performance.

And, it wasn’t enough that the fat cats took all of the wealth created by those productivity increases, they also chiseled workers wages, including outright wage theft, chiseled numbers of jobs, pushed jobs that lacked union coverage (by replacing union workers with contract workers), and then doubled down with the Big Kahuna of tax scams. They transferred tax burdens from corporations and the wealthy onto the middle class. Ronald Reagan bragged about pulling off a major tax increase without negative press in the form of “Social Security withholding.” We got a small tax cut (the fat cats got a bigger one) and at the same time we ended up paying that back and more as increases in SS taxes.

The US ranks near the bottom in taxes paid as a percentage of corporate income. Oh, and corporate profits are at an all-time high, setting new records every year if not every month for the past decade or so.

The lesson is clear. We can have our piece of the pie, but only if we are willing to fight for it. If we stay passive, it all slides uphill, against gravity, into the pockets of the already wealthy.

April 7, 2021

And Now You Know Why the Rich Defend the Status Quo

This blog was named the Class Warfare Blog for a reason. I will be renaming it because that war is over . . . and we lost. If you weren’t paying attention, the status quo ante just prior to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that is threatening millions of jobs and millions of people’s lives has resulted in tremendous wealth gains for the very rich.

Form an article in The Guardian on Forbes magazine’s latest list of billionaires:

“Forbes annual billionaire poll includes a record-breaking 2,755 billionaires, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once again topping the list. Elon Musk, zoomed into second place with a $151bn fortune, up $126.4bn from a year ago, when he ranked No 31 and was worth “just” $24.6bn.”

“Elon Musk, zoomed into second place with a $151bn fortune, up $126.4bn from a year ago.”

“Together the plutocrats added $5tn to their wealth for a combined fortune of $13.1tn, up from $8tn on the 2020 list. A record 493 people joined the list this year – one new billionaire every 17 hours. The majority, 205, were in China. But the gains were widespread with gains across the world.”

“But it was the incredibly wealthy who made the biggest gains. The 0.001% did even better than their lesser peers. The top 10 richest people on the list are worth $1.15tn, up from $686bn last year.”

Gee, do you think the time is ripe for a wealth tax? Well, that won’t happen because the very rich own our Congress. Every fat, white ass in a seat in Congress knows which side of the bread the butter is on and will not betray their rich paymasters.

“ . . . up $126.4bn from a year ago.”

And as I continue to remind you, to spend a billion dollars in any year, one has to spend $532,000 per hour of every working day, of every work week of that year. For Elon Musk to spend off half of his gain from the past year, he would have to spend $33,000,000 every working hour of every working day of a year.

The flaw of capitalism is that there is no limit upon greed. The only check on greed is from governments and people power (labor unions, mostly) and the rich have defanged labor unions and captured the government. So, Gordon Gecko has proved to be a prophet: Greed is Good, at least for now.

February 9, 2021

News Media Finally Stumbles Over the Truth

The Guardian ran an article today entitled “Amazon’s mushrooming power has met an unlikely foe: Bessemer, Alabama” by Hamilton Nolan. The author sets the stage with this:

Which brings us to the unlikely town of Bessemer, Alabama, where voting has just begun on the first real union election at an Amazon warehouse in the US. To be an Amazon warehouse worker today is to find yourself in the odd position of simultaneously having kind of a crappy job while also being perhaps the single most important kind of worker in America. That is to say, these workers represent the embodiment of where all of our corporate and economic trends are headed – low-wage jobs dictated by algorithms, in which people act as living automatons, completely at the mercy of the arcane needs of a trillion-dollar company. As small businesses across the country fail, more and more people every day wake up to find that these kinds of warehouse jobs are all that they can get. If our economy keeps evolving as it has been, any one of us could be forced to become an Amazon warehouse worker soon enough.”

But the real message came a bit later, namely:

Likewise, the labor movement in America has a rich history stretching back more than a century, but you can understand its key purpose like so: it exists to make working people as powerful in our economy as companies are. Without strong unions, the imbalance of power between employers and employees is so hopeless that it can produce a society where a tiny handful of super-rich people get ever richer, even while wages stagnate for everyone else and labor rights are constantly eroded, making the ‘American Dream’ of upward mobility a cruel joke. In other words – what we have now.

In other words – what we have now.

The diminishment of the American labor movement is often portrayed as something that just happened. They say things like “The union movement declined . . . blah, blah, blah.” This is a little like a description of a prize fight in which one of the fighters, overmatched, is viciously bludgeoned to the canvas by saying “The challenger fell during the seventh round and couldn’t get up, thus losing the match”

The American union movement was deliberately undermined by the same forces running the country right now. It began in the 1930’s but didn’t pick up steam until the New Deal created new supports for labor unions. The unions surged and the opposition started to organize big time. The Powell Memo of the late 1970’s was a blueprint for the suppression of government regulations and labor unions and the efforts behind it haven’t let up since then. (Hatred of the New Deal is still a hallmark of fat cat status.)

For those who claim this diminishment came about “naturally” please note that in the 1960’s both the U.S. and Canada had about 31% of all jobs being union jobs. Sixty years later, aka now, Canada has about 31% union jobs and the U.S. has somewhere south of 10% union jobs. If the diminishment of labor unions was “natural,” why didn’t it also happen in Canada?

The reason why unions were slated for destruction is clear. It was stated clearly in the article referred to above “Without strong unions, the imbalance of power between employers and employees is so hopeless that it can produce a society where a tiny handful of super-rich people get ever richer, even while wages stagnate for everyone else and labor rights are constantly eroded, making the ‘American Dream’ of upward mobility a cruel joke. In other words – what we have now.”

In politics if you want to know why something happens, you are taught to “follow the money.” Can you see who might benefit from “a society where a tiny handful of super-rich people get ever richer?”

Now you know who the puppetmasters/stringpullers are.

September 28, 2020

When it was ’54 …

Republicans are often characterized as wishing our country would be restored to what it was like in 1954.

So do I.

 

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